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When To Apply Rational Choice Theory

769 words - 4 pages

When to Apply Rational Choice Theory
A widely used model to study human behavior, called Rational Choice Theory, helps to simplify social phenomena by assuming these properties: utility maximization, consistency, expected value, individuals as relevant agents, homogeneity, and equilibrium. Almost all social scientists, especially economists, use this model to predict human behavior, and sometimes their results may contradict the actual phenomenon; in other words, they were unaware that their experiments failed to meet one or more of the Rational Choice Theory assumptions. For example, in situations like enlisting in the military and eventually going to war, where individuals fail to ...view middle of the document...

A rational human being would value life above anything offered to him, even the fate of his country. Therefore, the cost of the possibility of losing his own life would outweigh any benefit that winning the battle would bring to that individual. In addition, the chance that an individual going to battle will influence the outcome of the battle is significantly slim, although slightly better than voting in a presidential or gubernatorial election. Furthermore, we must focus on individuals, not society as a whole. Society, in this case the nation, will benefit, but as stated before, the relevant agents are individuals, not society. Therefore, the argument “What if everyone did the same?” does not apply here. The free-rider problem also helps us to explain how people who enlist and fight in wars are irrational; they could realize the same amount of benefit if they win the war even without participating in the act of fighting, which has the potential of death.
Next, the example of sex workers in the prostitution industry satisfies the Rational Choice Theory assumptions if we focus only on the workers themselves. Although prostitution is deemed socially unacceptable in many societies, prostitutes exist in basically every country and most prostitutes act “rationally” in the social science definition of the term. Most importantly, the sex workers are maximizing their utility through prostitution. For example, studies of sex...

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